Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married is a perfect example of the fact that sometimes, a movie is actually less than the sum of its parts. The story is absorbing, and some of the performances are very believable, but for me, there was just no escaping a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something about this movie was wrong.

The set-up is undoubtedly interesting. Kym (Anne Hathaway) has gotten out of rehab just in time to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), and she returns to a home now filled with dozens of strangers all getting ready for the big day. At the heart of the hustle and bustle is her dad, played by a sincere and engaging Bill Irwin. The first to defend Kym as she and Rachel clash, he’s also deeply haunted (along with the rest of the family) by the consequences of Kym’s drug-induced actions years earlier.

Tensions eventually give way to a lot of screaming and crying, and even a bit of interfamily violence for good measure. No one can truly forgive Kym for her past, least of all herself, and her attention-seeking antics as the wedding draws nearer don’t help. The constant arguments are convincing, but they all play out in roughly the same way. What’s more, it’s hard to take anyone’s side for more than a few minutes because not a single character comes out unscathed.

Alone, that wouldn’t be a tremendous problem if the movie was a lot more focused. Director Jonathan Demme spends altogether too much time on the festivities of the occasion itself, and it’s here that the story really falls flat. Between rambling congratulatory speeches by characters we never see again to seemingly unending shots of people dancing the night away, at least half an hour could have easily been cut from the picture. Rachel’s future husband is so underdeveloped that it’s clear the wedding is only a plot device, so spending such a large portion of the movie on it is just silly. This is Kym’s story, and every scene spent on something else is an utter waste of time.

In the end, Rachel Getting Married is a lot like watching your family fight – while it’s fascinating at times and certainly commands your attention, it’s just not a very pleasant experience. I won’t deny that its portrayal of a family in crisis is realistic and well-acted, though, and if that had been the primary focus I might have enjoyed it slightly more. But the movie’s near-schizophrenic nature as it bounces back and forth between meaningless revelry and a family’s despair is quite off-putting, and it makes it extremely difficult to recommend.

Rating: **½ (2.5 out of 4)


Jess said...

Bill Irwin plays her dad. Just FYI, and it was a terrific performance.

Marc said...

Wow, I don't know what I was thinking there. Well actually, I do, and it just so happens that what I was thinking was incorrect. :P